(Above: and as always more David Rowe tone-setting, and fiery fun, here).
The pond has always had difficulty with the concept of reincarnation.
Philosophically and practically, it always seemed too difficult.
And then came jolly Joe Hockey looking and sounding unnervingly like Wayne Swan. Not just channelling, but re-born, and slouching like a rough beast to Canberra to sell a bigger deficit.
Not to mention, if you look to the Rowe cartoon above, Tony Abbott taking on the hues of Bing Crosby, and Julie (if the pond may be so van Onselen bold and personal) Bishop looking just a little like a Doris Day hardened by life in the outer reaches of hell.
There will be more Joe Hockey channelling Wayne Swan today, though after enduring jolly Joe blathering about 'shock absorbers' yesterday, the pond feels entitled to give it a miss. Anyway, the fix is already in ...
As usual these days, it's dejua vu all over again, as anyone with at least one memory still operating on a solar cell can recall the outrage the opposition offered up when Swaneee tried to offer the world economic crisis as an excuse for running a deficit ... (what world crisis, the opposition screeched).
As always these days, the pond turns to the reptiles at the Oz to discover the multiple level of ironies at work in political life.
These might be simply summarised as there's a gigantic emergency, followed by a mouse-like squeak, it's not really an emergency ...
Well it's an emergency but it's a different emergency, which requires an entirely different strategy, which is to not worry too much about the size of the deficit ... which is to sound and do like Wayne Swan ...
Phillip Hudson (no link, it only leads to a begging letter from the paupers of the press) put it this way:
Like the bomb disposal expert trying to decide whether to cut the green or red wire, Joe Hockey has to show delicate precision with the twin messages he is selling about the budget and the economy. The Treasurer is trying to use the worst annual decline in the terms of trade since records began in 1959 to jolt a hostile Senate — and untrusting public — to accept his unpopular budget repair plan. But Hockey must not panic shoppers 10 days before Christmas and risk already fragile confidence being spooked by his grim forecast of higher unemployment as the budget bottom-line continues to deteriorate.
Uh huh. But everyone's seen the unemployment and growth predictions, and everyone knows it's grim, and everyone knows confidence is down the gurgler, and the majority have formed a view, as the reptiles reminded us yet again today:
They need a poll to discover the government's on the nose? And the news is an EXCLUSIVE?
Meanwhile, the bomb disposal metaphor was taken up in Eric Lobbecke's accompanying illustration:
The pond was immediately reminded of the grand-daddy of cut the 'blue or the red wire' routine, Richard Lester's wretched 1974 'blow the ship up' drama Juggernaut:
The scene's here, if you can stand the accompanying advertisement, but it reminded the pond how Australian politics has now been reduced to a commercial action pot-boiler, and no amount of energy trying to dress up jolly Joe as a star of The Hurt Locker can hide the banality of the concept (is there an email from a Sony executive somewhere to prove the point?)
Anyway, does jolly Joe want to go there, as this ...
... lead to this ...
But back to Hudson, singing a song of reptile lament:
Today’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook is the start of the two-step strategy to relaunch the campaign to convince the nation the government’s has the right plan to put the budget on a sustainable footing. But the wrong tone or a repeat of the gaffes that undermined the previous sales job could see the budget and the economy — and Hockey’s future leadership ambitions — explode in the Treasurer’s face.
He also has to avoid being tangled in the live wire of hypocrisy after years of ridiculing the former government for revenue writedowns that saw it constantly fail to meet claims of a return to surplus. Hockey’s argument is that unlike Labor, which relied on the temporary proceeds of a boom to lock in permanent spending promises, the Coalition has been sideswiped by a rapid deterioration in the terms of trade.
Uh huh. Hudson trots out that reliable fop, Chris Richardson, to reassure anyone that's listening that the government's situation is worse than anything Labor dealt with, as if that's some sort of viable excuse.
Sadly the scales seem to have fallen from the reptiles' eyes, or is that their skin?
The Coalition has failed miserably to communicate a consistent and coherent budget message.
Say that again. A miserable failure?
Before the election there was a “budget emergency” yet it teamed up with the Greens in one of its first acts in government to abolish the debt ceiling and loaded up the deficit. Instead of using the momentum of an election victory, it went quiet for months and kept the Commission of Audit hidden. It was finally released just 12 days before the budget when the harsh measures it recommended took attention from the debate the nation needed to have about the unsustainable rate of growth of the biggest spending areas in the budget, such as Medicare and pensions.
Uh huh. Do go on.
Australians didn’t understand why they were being asked to pay $7 to visit a GP.
Might that have anything to do with the way the seven bucks wasn't being spent on the "budget emergency" but instead was lavished on a brand new medical research scheme? (And as for that scheme, why not dip in to Ross Gittins' Medical research future fund: How the trick is done).
And all the while, long after it was necessary or politically wise or useful, Abbott the social engineer still clutched to his bosom his lavish PPL scheme...
So what's the result?
Abbott now says the policy he was forced to dump will be replaced by something “better”, which will only embolden the Senate to say no more often.
Ostensibly that's about the co-payment, but it might well apply to any of the indecisions and the revisions that arise when you have a government drunk on spending on its own pet projects ...
The lizard Oz saw it as a clarion wake-up call for government and public on its front page today:
But Hudson remains a rock-solid reptile, and you have to admire his resilience, as he goes on to do a preview of the government's future strategies and sells us on electorate-friendly solutions:
A childcare and families package will be the centrepiece of the next budget as Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme is watered-down with more focus on the availability and affordability of childcare for low and middle income voters.
A blowout in the cost of childcare and family payments puts means-testing on the table and the government reckons finding childcare solutions, such as nannies for families who don’t work 9-5, is a winner.
A personal nanny-led recovery is the solution?
A nanny in every home? Every home must have a Mary Poppins for bludgers who are leaners that don't clock on 9-5?
Just listen to yourself you goose ... can't you hear the cackling of the leaner geese?
And yet without a shred of irony, or the slightest hint of a mixed message, Hudson goes on to quote a senior government figure:
“How do you convince Australians that spending less is a good idea. It’s like trying to sell cancer,” he says.
Put that another way:
“How do you convince Australians that pissing money against the wall on nannies is a good idea. It’s like trying to sell the notion that every kid needs to know how to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” he says.
Here's a government allegedly caught in a dire budget emergency, and determined to do the hard yards, and yet according to a senior government figure, it's already planning its next bout of vote-buying and pandering as a way of saving its hide ...
So where's all the Photoshop from the Murdoch press sending up this nonsense?
No, all you cop today in the reptile editorial is this sort of idle hand-ringing:
Today's release of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook provides an opportunity for the Abbott government to recast its economic policy, refocus its communications effort and reset the political debate before the end of year. Since the government’s election last year, economic policymaking has often been confused and core messages have run counter to key objectives. The necessary conversation with the Australian people about need for reform was not adequately undertaken in advance of the May budget. With little groundwork prior to the budget, voters were not persuaded about the merits of key policy initiatives designed to fix a problem they couldn’t see. Some initiatives caught voters by surprise, such as the now defunct $7 GP co-payment and the deregulation of university fees. Not surprisingly, both have run into strong Senate resistance, despite the strong public policy case to adopt both. We were told Australia faced a “budget emergency” only to see ministers crab-walk away from that phrase months later. We were promised remedial action to “end the culture of entitlement” but the generous paid parental leave policy seemed to entrench it. Just last week Senate leader Eric Abetz said the economy needed a “reboot” yet Treasurer Joe Hockey rejected that terminology, saying the economy is “fundamentally strong”. Without public or parliamentary support for necessary budget measures coupled with confused messaging, the voters are looking for a steady hand on economic policy and a clear framework for decision-making in the year ahead.
Settle reptiles. Get around behind. A steady hand will see a nanny-led recovery ...
How stupid does it get?
The true state of the economy and the budget will be revealed in MYEFO. This is a test for the government. The Treasurer gave a preview yesterday. He said declining commodity prices — iron ore, coal and wheat — have produced the largest fall in the terms of trade since 1959. It was a sobering message. While the underlying performance of the economy remains relatively strong, we are facing significant headwinds that will further erode the budget bottom line and necessitate economic reform. Mr Hockey characterised the external threat to the budget as a risk to future prosperity and standards of living. He said the budget would be used as a “shock absorber” to counter these external pressures. Although the government did not anticipate a declining iron ore price and the impact this would have on revenue — although we have sounded warnings for many years — the fall from $120 a tonne a year ago to $63 today cannot be ignored. It has rocked the foundation of the budget and poses a risk to our export-dependent economy. Economists are expecting this year’s deficit to be around $40bn — up from $29.8bn forecast in the May budget.
The government did not anticipate a decline in prices ...
Come away Ms Poppins, let us hop into the pond's time machine:
TONY ABBOTT: We've got Martin Ferguson announcing officially this morning that the mining boom is over.
LEXANDRA KIRK: The Opposition Leader says that poses some problems for the Government. TONY ABBOTT: How can you have a government whose policy is based on spreading the benefits of the boom now that the boom is officially over? This is a real problem for the Government, it undermines their whole economic strategy.
Hey nonny no, that's enough of August 2012 and The World Today here ...
As for this pandering government, that talks tough but veers away from any notion of taxing the rich or ending assorted rorts, from negative gearing to superannuation, which favour the well-off, what an abject failure, and hypocrites to boot they are ...
Is there an upside?
Well yes, with jolly Joe as the dancing bear in the circus, we've been spared more yet talk of Peter Credlin, so we can focus on the policy makers and their nanny led recovery ...
Well let the pond get in a pre-emptive 'bah humbug'. This is a government now so scared of its own shadow, and of the wrath of the electorate, and so deeply mired in its previous bungles and bumbles and hypocrisies, that the best they can offer is a field day for journalists, who once jolly Joe Hockey speaks, immediately race off to the archive to discover the way he said exactly the opposite only a few days before ...
...Diamond Joe's about to unveil a massive further deficit with no possible surplus in sight in tomorrow's midyear fiscal and economic outlook.
And, again, that would be reasonable except that that Hockey's entire pitch for the gig was that he had miraculous powers of economic sorcery. It doesn't help that he mercilessly hammered former treasurer Wayne Swan for relying on pathetic excuses like the existence of the Global Financial Crisis. Needless to say, opposition leader Bill Shorten is in a revengey sort of a mood.
"Joe Hockey said, when he got to power with Tony Abbott, that they would be in surplus within the first year, then within the first term," he said yesterday. "I'm surprised they haven't said 'the cat ate my homework' before Monday's mini-budget."
Joe's cat was unavailable for comment.
Yes, it's zinger Bill and that mainstream media Street man trying hard here to make ranting bloggers redundant ...
Ah well, just time for a little Eliot:
And indeed there will be time
For the slinky deficit that slides along the street,
Rubbing its feline Hockey cat back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder a budget
And create a nanny-led recovery,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions
And thousands of sackings in time for Christmas ...
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
Cigar in hand,
With a bald spot in the middle of my surplus—
(They will say: “How his surplus is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the Diamond Joe chin,
My blue necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: “But how his surplus is so thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
And sackings to generate confidence
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
And my deficits with WA iron ore loaders;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all -
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
Budget shock absorber
Nanny led recovery
And when I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And endless hypocrisies and follies.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
Well it's like this you see,
It's been a bit of a bummer world price wise
But we have in hand a nanny-led recovery
Which will see all those retrenched just before Xmas
Ready to tackle a brave new world of discovery ...
Ah well, the pond doesn't usually repeat its cartoons, but really the pond feels like repeating this David Pope effort endlessly, in the run up to Christmas (and more Pope here).